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File / The Outlook Horseshoe Bend coach Hagen Whiteard feels confident in her pitching rotation of Danielle Mitchell, pictured, and Caly Carlisle.

It always seems to come down to this for Reeltown and Horseshoe Bend.

For the fourth season in a row, the in-county rivals will most likely meet for the Class 2A Area 7 championship. All Horseshoe Bend and Reeltown will have to do is take down LaFayette, which they both swept during the regular season. 

HBS will kick off the tournament, which is hosted by Reeltown, against the Bulldogs at noon today. The Generals defeated LaFayette by a combined score of 47-1 in three games during the regular season. If Reeltown should meet the Bulldogs in the consolation bracket, it defeated them 40-3 in two games this year.

So, barring a miracle from LaFayette, it’ll be Horseshoe Bend and Reeltown in the area championship, which is scheduled for 6 p.m. today, and the Rebels will be looking to secure their third straight title against their rivals. Reeltown will be the favorite entering the tournament, as the Rebels swept HBS. But if the two matchups are any indication, Horseshoe Bend keeps getting closer and closer. The Rebels won the first game, 15-5, but earned the second victory only 7-6.

“I think it’ll be more about staying mentally focused for us,” Generals coach Hagen Whiteard said. “We need to make sure we step up to the plate and on the field with a purpose. I think we struggle with the fact that we know it’s a big rivalry and we know it’s going to be a competitive game, and I think we get in our heads sometimes before we actually play them.” 

Reeltown (12-17-1) has struggled from the circle this year. Its pitching staff is averaging six walks per game and it also has a combined ERA of 6.984. The Rebels have played fairly solid defense, averaging just over two errors per game. But it’s the Rebel offense Horseshoe Bend will need to look out for.

As a team, Reeltown has a batting average of .351 with Chloe Davidson (.594), Bella Studdard (.488) and Morgan McGuire (.480) all batting well over .400, and Madison Ledbetter (.386) is not far behind.

For Horseshoe Bend, offense has been an issue, especially late in the season. Ivy Vickers leads the attack with a batting average of .425, and several others are batting over .300 but it’s the consistency that’s been a problem.

“A word that we have focused on a lot lately is consistency,” Whiteard said. “And we need to be consistent in everything we do. Here the past month or so, our defense has become stable and solid; now we’ve been focusing on stepping up to the plate with confidence and trying to pick up that same consistency at the plate.”

Whiteard feels good about her pitching rotation of Danielle Mitchell and Caly Carlisle, especially now that Carlisle is back to full health after a nagging injury. Mitchell has thrown 105 2/3 innings this year with an ERA of 5.233. Carlisle has accounted for 53 1/3 innings, finishing with a regular-season ERA of 3.150.

Horseshoe Bend’s defense is going to need to play up to its potential Whiteard has seen lately because it hasn’t always been up to par. Half of the runs the Generals have allowed this season have been unearned.

Lizi Arbogast is the sports editor at Tallapoosa Publishers, Inc.